Hopalong cassidy, p.16
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       Hopalong Cassidy, p.16
 

           Honoré Morrow

  CHAPTER XVI

  THE FEINT

  On the boundary line alert and eager punchers rode at a canter to andfro, watching the herds to the south of them, and quick to turn backall that strayed across the line. Just east of the middle point of theboundary Red and Johnny met and compared notes, and both reported thesame state of affairs, which was that the cattle came constantlynearer.

  Johnny removed his field glasses from his eyes.

  "There's punchers with that herd, Red. Three of 'em."

  "I reckoned so."

  "Wonder what they think they're going to do?"

  "We'll know purty soon."

  "They're coming this way."

  "If you had th' brains of a calf you'd know they wouldn't go south."

  "Think they're going to rush us?" Johnny asked, eagerly.

  "No; course not!" retorted Red. "They're going to make 'em stand ontheir heads!"

  Johnny began to hum--

  Joyous Joe got a juniper jag, A-jogging out of Jaytown; Joyous Joe got a juniper jag--

  "We'll show that prickly pear from Montanny some fine points."

  "Now, look here, Kid; don't you let 'em get a cow across th' line.Shoot every one, but keep yore eyes on th' gang."

  "'Joyous Joe got a juniper jag,--' Come on, you half-breeds!"

  "Wonder where Hopalong is?" Red asked.

  "Up on th' Peak, I reckon. _Hey_, Billy!" he yelled. "Here comesBilly, Red."

  "I guessed as much when you yelled; if you don't yell away from my earnext time I'll kick yore pants over yore hat. D----d idiot, you!"

  "Hullo, Billy," cried Johnny, ignoring Red's remarks. "Just in timefor th' pie. Where's Hopalong?"

  "In th' hills."

  "You get along an' tell him what's doing out here," ordered Red. "Golively!"

  "Reckon I'd better stay an' give you a hand; you'll need it beforelong," Billy replied.

  "You know what Hopalong said, don't you?" blazed Red. "What do youthink me an' th' Kid are made of, anyhow? You go on, an' quick!"

  "Send Johnny," Billy suggested, hopefully.

  "Why, you coyote!" cried Johnny, excitedly. "Th' idea! You go on!"

  "Yo're a pair of hogs," grumbled Billy, riding off. "I'll get square,someday. Hope they lick you!"

  "Run along, little boy," jeered Johnny. "Oh, gee! Here they come!" hecried as Billy rode behind the chaparral. "Look at 'em!"

  "_Let_ 'em come!" cried Billy, returning. "We'll lick 'em!"

  "Get out of here!" shouted Red, drawing his Winchester from itssheath. "For G-d's sake, do what yo're told! Want to let Meeker winout?"

  "Nope; so long," and Billy galloped away.

  "That ain't a herd!" cried Johnny, elated. "That's only a handful.It's a scrawny looking bunch, men an' all. Come on, you coyotes!" heyelled, waving his rifle.

  "You chump; this ain't the real play--it's a blind, a wedge," Redreplied. "They're pushing a big one through somewhere else."

  "I'm shore glad Billy went, an' not me," Johnny remarked.

  "There's Morgan," Red remarked. "I know his riding."

  "Bet you won't know it when th' show's over. An' there's Chick, too.He needs a licking. You won't know his riding, neither."

  The herd came rapidly forward and the men who were guarding it wavedtheir sombreros and urged it on. Red, knowing that he would be crowdedif he waited until the cows were upon him, threw his rifle to hisshoulder and began to shoot rapidly, and cow after cow dropped, andthe rush was stopped. Before the H2 men could get free from thepanic-stricken herd Red and Johnny were within a hundred yards of themand when they looked up it was to see Red covering them, while Johnny,pleased by the reduced range, was dropping more cows.

  "Stop!" Red shouted, angrily.

  "Huh!" exclaimed Johnny, looking up. "Oh, I thought you was talking tome," he muttered, and then dropped another cow.

  "What in h--l do you think yo're doing?" yelled Morgan.

  "Just practising," retorted Johnny. He quickly swung his rifle onChick. "Hands up! No more of that!"

  "You've got gall, shooting our cows!" replied Chick.

  "Get 'em up, boy!" snapped Johnny, and Chick slowly raised his arms,speaking rapidly.

  "What do you take us for!" shouted Ed Joyce, frantic at hishelplessness.

  "Coyotes," replied Red. "An' since coyotes don't ride, you get off'nthem cayuses, _pronto_."

  "Like h--l!" retorted Ed.

  Johnny's rifle cracked and Ed tumbled off his dead horse, and when hearose the air was blue.

  "Nex' gent say 'I,'" called Johnny.

  "I'll be d----d if I'll stand for that!" yelled Morgan, reaching forhis gun. The next thing he knew was that the air was full of comets,and that his horse was dead.

  Chick sullenly dismounted and stood watching Red, who was now invastly better spirits, since the H2 rifles were on the horses and toofar away from their owners to be of any use. The range was too greatfor good revolver shooting even if they could get them into action.

  "Watch 'em," said Red, firing. Chick's horse, stung to frenzy by thewound, kicked up its heels and bolted, leaving the three punchersstranded ten miles from home.

  "Turn around an' hit th' back trail," ordered Red. "No back talk!"

  "I'll bust you wide open, someday, you red-headed wart!" threatenedDan, shaking his fist at the grinning line man. "That's a h--l of athing to do, that is!"

  "Shut up an' go home. Ain't you got enough?" shouted Red.

  "Just wait, you half-breed!" yelled Ed Joyce.

  "That's two with th' waiting habit," laughed Johnny.

  "What do--" began Chick, stepping forward.

  "Shut up! Who told you to open yore face!" cried Red, savagely. "Gethome! G'wan!"

  "Walk, you coyotes, walk!" exulted Johnny.

  He and his companion watched the three angry punchers stride offtowards the H2 and then Red told Johnny to ride west while he,himself, would go east to help his friends if they should need him.They had just begun to separate when Johnny uttered a shout of joy.Antonio had joined the trio of walkers and they were pulling him fromhis horse. He waved his arms excitedly, but Chick had him covered. Danand Ed were already on the animal and they quickly pulled Chick upbehind them, narrowly watching the Mexican all the while. The horsefought for some time and then started south, the riders shouting whileAntonio, still waving his arms, plodded homeward on foot.

  Great joy filled Johnny's heart as he gloated over the Mexican'spredicament. "Hoof it, you greasy snake! Kick up th' dust, you lazylizard!"

  "They can't get in th' game again for some time, till they getcayuses," remarked Red. "That makes four less to deal with, countingth' Greaser as a whole man."

  "Three an' a third," corrected his companion. "He acts like he had alleternity to get nowhere--look at him! Let's go down an' rope him. He'son th' prod now--we can have a lot of fun."

  "If I go down there it'll be to plug him good," Red replied. "You hangaround out here for a while. I'm goin' west--Pete's in that housealone--so long, Kid."

  Johnny grinned a farewell to Antonio and followed instructions whilehis friend rode towards the Peak to assist Pete, the lonely, who as ithappened, would be very glad to see him.

 
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